The Centre has paid Rs 4.1 crore to the State Bank of India as commission for the sale of electoral bonds, The Indian Express reported on Monday, citing a Right to Information response. The government has spent an additional Rs 1.86 crore on the printing of these bonds, the report said.
Replying to an RTI application filed by Lokesh Batra, the SBI said that that the total commission payable by the government to the state-owned lender was Rs 4.35 crore for 15 phases of bond sales. The government has so far, paid Rs 4.1 crore for 13 phases, while the remaining amount of Rs 25 lakh was still due, The Indian Express reported.
Electoral bonds are monetary instruments that citizens or corporate groups can buy from a bank and give to a political party, which is then free to redeem them for money. The Centre had first introduced electoral bonds in January 2018.
The SBI, in its response, also said that a total of 6,64,250 electoral bonds were printed till date, since the introduction of the scheme in 2018, and total donations through them have touched Rs 6,535 crore, according to The Indian Express’ report.
The SBI response came days after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea on urgent basis seeking direction to stop further sale of electoral bonds. Non-governmental organisation Association for Democratic Reforms had moved the court on March 9, citing “serious apprehension” that the sale of electoral bonds ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls would lead to an increase in illegal funding of political parties through shell companies. The matter, which was pending since 2017, will now be heard on March 24.
The NGO had approached the court in October last year as well, seeking to stop the sale ahead of Bihar Assembly elections. However, the court did not give any such direction and electoral bonds worth more than Rs 282.29 crore were sold through the SBI.